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On My Country And The World

1829 words - 7 pages

As Mikhail Gorbachev points out early on in his book On My Country and the World, the formation of the Soviet Union in the early 20th century changed the course of history for nearly 70 years. No matter what one’s personal feelings towards this political body might be, it is hard to deny this fact. This is why its collapse in 1991 was so widely analyzed as it held many implications for the future. Gorbachev had many ideals that he professed throughout his reign as head of the Soviet Union, with democracy and free choice spearheading his campaign of reform. However these changes could not prevent the imminent collapse, and might have even led to it. In Gorbachev’s eyes, there are several direct and indirect causes of the collapse. Indirect causes include the totalitarian system that left countries with nationalistic problems which weakened the Union and the use of force against demonstrators during the era of perestroika. Gorbachev places more weight on the inability to gather support for a new Union treaty, and the undermining conducted by the conservative coup and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He also specifically mentions the decision by Russia to declare sovereignty as the single most important step in dissolving the Soviet Union. Gorbachev is not highly critical of himself, and only briefly mentions what more he could have done to prevent this from happening.
Gorbachev spends the first part of his book explaining the history of the Soviet Union, from the October revolutions to the present day. He discusses the noble origins of revolution which were then perverted by Stalin into a totalitarian system that slowly weakened the Union. By the 1980’s, change was needed and “perestroika was born out of the realization that problems of internal development in our country were ripe, even overripe, for a solution” (Mikhail Gorbachev, On My Country and the World [Columbia University Press, 2000], 56). With perestroika bringing freedom and democracy to the people, it in turn created the need to change the system as a whole to fit the needs of the individual states. This included promoting national determination and fixing the problems brought on by totalitarianism. Perestroika was set in motion to help fix these problems, but it had unintended consequences. Gorbachev admits he miscalculated the way in which to do this and states “the delusion was that at the time I, like most of us, assumed this could be accomplished by improving and refining the existing system” (57). The advent of perestroika was the catalyst for many of the Soviet States (namely the Baltic republics and Eurasian states) to freely denounce their participation in the Union. Whereas Gorbachev wanted to restructure the way the Union was run so as to somewhat decentralize it, these states wanted to rid themselves of a Union altogether. It appears it was a no win situation for Gorbachev as the totalitarian system, while unifying, was rotting the system from the...

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